R Strauss – Salome

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: R Strauss
LABELS: TDK
WORKS: Salome
PERFORMER: Nadja Michael, Falk Struckmann, Peter Bronder, Iris Vermillion, Matthias Klink, Natela Nicoli; Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala/Daniel Harding; dir. Luc Bondy (Milan, 2007)
CATALOGUE NO: DVWW-OPSALOME (NTSC system; DD 5.1, dts 5.1; 16:9 anamorphic)

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Whatever the dearth of opera recordings on CD – though there has even been a new studio Salome, albeit in English – this release reveals a fine old quandary on DVD: not only has Luc Bondy’s production been filmed at the Royal Opera, with a better cast overall than this one, but only months ago we had the chance to see Nadja Michael, the La Scala revival’s heroine, spinning in blood-soaked ecstasy for David MacVicar’s staging.

Although that works remarkably well in close-up, Michael’s is not a characterisation one wants to hear again, veering as much as a tone flat (when she finally tells John the Baptist’s severed head that ‘if you had looked on me, you would have loved me’).

Dramatically, it’s hard to see what Bondy wants to tell us about his Judeaan princess – alternating perplexingly between chaste, veiled oriental woman and foxy maenad rather than developing from a teenager with an oversexed curiosity to necrophiliac monster.

Competition is tough from Bondy’s first Herods on Decca: Peter Bronder and Iris Vermillion are a more caricatural pair than the more believable unhappy family dominated by Anja Silja’s Herodias.

Falk Struckmann is an imposing, suitably feral prophet but doesn’t eclipse the charisma of Bryn Terfel in his prime. Daniel Harding’s conducting comes much closer to Dohnányi’s slightly chilly balancing act on Decca than to the near-ideal Philippe Jordan for MacVicar, translucent when required but better able to pull out all stops at the nodal points.

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There is no accompanying ‘making of’ documentary here as there was for the MacVicar show: a pity, as we might have learned more about what Bondy wanted. David Nice